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Navajo Nation is asking the White House to stop the transportation of uranium through its reservation, citing public health risks. 

On April 29, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren signed resolution CAP-23-24, urging President Joe Biden to halt uranium hauling activities on Navajo lands, particularly along State Route 89 and U.S. Highway 160. 

Endorsed by the Navajo Nation Council, the resolution highlights the ongoing harm caused by past uranium mining and calls for executive action to protect the land, water, and public health. 

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This resolution follows President Nygren's and Speaker Crystalyne Curley's earlier request to President Biden on March 12, 2024, emphasizing the long-lasting damage caused by uranium mining during the Cold War, which continues to affect the environment and health of Navajo communities. 

“Over the past few months, an issue of critical importance has arisen that threatens the health, wellbeing, and cultural integrity of our tribal communities: the transportation of uranium ore through Arizona,” Nygren stated in a letter addressed to President Biden.

In August of 2023, Nygren and Curley joined Biden as he established the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument in Arizona. The exemption of the Pinyon Plain Mine from the monument's regulations raised concerns among tribal and environmental groups. 

“Our support for the monument reaffirmed our stance against the transportation of uranium across Navajo lands, which not only endangers our communities but also contradicts our sovereign rights to enforce our laws and protect our territory,” Nygren wrote.

Energy Fuels, Inc., one of the U.S.’s top uranium producers, announced the production of the Pinyon Plain Mine near the Grand Canyon and Sacred Red Butte in December 2023. The company’s proposal to transport uranium ore from the Pinyon Plain Mine to the White Mesa Mill in Utah faces strong opposition

The proposal to transport uranium ore across Navajo Nation lands violates the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005, which prohibits uranium mining and processing on Navajo lands. 

“The Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005, was a powerful declaration by the Navajo Nation to prohibit uranium mining and processing on our lands,” Nygren said in a letter. “This law was our response to the catastrophic harm uranium mining has inflicted upon our people – a legacy of illness, contamination, and environmental degradation that we continue to confront.”

Despite past measures opposing transporting radioactive substances across Navajo Nation lands, the council lacks authority over state and federal rights-of-way. 

“Alternative routes exist that can and should be used to avoid crossing Navajo lands. The use of these alternative paths would demonstrate respect for our sovereignty and a commitment to our collective health and safety,”  Nygren wrote.

 

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.